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“Generation of talent being lost” report warns

By Rachel Lawler

Generations of talent are being lost through a lack of investment in the early years workforce, according to a new report from the Sutton Trust and the Centre for Research in Early Childhood.

The report reviews recent developments in early years policy and offers a framework for action to improve social mobility. It argues in favour of improved pay, training and conditions for early years staff to help improve the life chances of disadvantaged children.

The report highlights the significant drop in early years teacher recruitment in recent years. Following the creation of the new Early Years Educator and Early Years Teacher qualifications as well as the high turnover of staff in the sector.

First five years
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, commented: “The first years of a child’s life are crucial for their development, both in terms of attainment and their social and emotional wellbeing. Access to high-quality early years education is vital, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The early years workforce should be given the pay and training they deserve. First and foremost, we need a clear vision for the early years workforce that addresses disparity in pay amongst staff and provides them with adequate development and qualifications.

“Investing in the people who work in our early years sector will bring benefits to all young children – but particularly the most disadvantaged – for years to come.”

Undervalued practitioners
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: "The Sutton Trust is absolutely right to call for more support for the early years workforce.

"We all know how vital the first five years of a child's life are for their long-term learning and development - and yet, despite this, early years practitioners remain both hugely undervalued and grossly underpaid. 

"For far too long, we've relied on the goodwill of early years practitioners to keep them in the sector, when what they need and deserve is to be able to progress in their careers, to know that they are valued and respected, and crucially, to be paid a decent wage."

"With so many in the workforce being paid at or just above the minimum wage, it's clear that the historic underfunding of the early years has to be addressed as a priority if we are going to continue to be able to recruit and retain talent, high-quality practitioners into the sector.

"The government cannot continue to drag its feet on this issue. It's time that ministers committed to both a comprehensive and meaningful long-term early years workforce strategy, and the substantial investment needed to attract and retain a high-quality workforce to continue providing the best possible early education to the young children in our care." 

Find out more
Read the Early Years Workforce Review in full